Making Dummy Rounds

kenBrooksAGI Gunsmithing Instructor and Master Gunsmith
Ken Brooks operates
 PISCO Gunsmithing in Oregon.

Dummy rounds are an essential part of your gun repair toolkit if you are making adjustments or repairs to a firearm with feeding problems. Of course, you should never use live rounds in your shop for such purposes.

In this video Master Gunsmith Ken Brooks demonstrates how you can easily make your own dummy rounds for much less than they cost to purchase. Follow his advice and stay safe in your trade.

14 Responses to Making Dummy Rounds

  1. Hi Ken,
    Seven Questions:
    1. After pulling the bullet and dumping the powder, why should we not chamber and fire the primed case in a gun and proceed with making our dummy cartridge, thereby eliminating the oil treatment? Also, the firing pin’s indent in the primer would provide witness that the primer is spent. No?
    2. Also, I’m interested in the little blue vice you’re using in this video. It looks brand new. Is it a NOS (new old stock) “Versa Vice” variant that’s long out of production, or is it a new vice that is currently marketed and available for purchase?
    So is it made and well fitted of cast iron and steel parts? Do you recommend it and where can I get one? I’ve seen the many poor reviews for Brownell’s “Multi-Vice” and cannot bring myself to spend $300 for a gunsmith vice of questionable quality.

    • Richard,
      I know a buddy in the USA who has the exact same vice as Ken, and he really likes it. It is a Forge brand vice available from Harbor Freight for $22.99. Just clamp it to a sturdy table (or mount it with screws) and off you go! Here’s the link:

      I tried buying this exact same vice from Harbor Freight after I broke my Shop Fox Parrot but I live in Canada and the shipping cost was much more than the price of the vice. Could not find this vice in Canada for sale. I think it is a really neat little vice, especially for smaller applications in which is what I need it for anyhow.

      The weakest link of the Shop Fox Parrot is the hole (for the shaft/retaining pin) through the part that prevents the vice from rotating when the jaws are torqued tight. If you over torque these types of vices (Shop Fox Parrot vice, etc) the cast will crack and break all around that hole on the “clamping part”, which then renders the vice useless!

      The Shop Fox Parrot Vice is a bad design only because of that “weak link”, IMO. I am going to replace the broken part with a part that I will make out of a high carbon steel.

      Hope this helps Richard. Cheers

    • Not to be picky but…

      “In the U.S., the word for the clamping tool comprising two jaws closed and opened by a screw or lever is spelled vise. Outside American English, the vise spelling rarely appears. The gripping tool is instead spelled vice. This word of course has several other meanings in all varieties of English, including (1) immorality, and (2) an undesirable habit. For these senses, vice is so spelled even in the U.S.” -the Grammarist

      Which means there may be good vises, but rarely a good vice!

      Dana–you are excused because you are in the Great White North.

      • Many thanks to all of you for sharing your insights. I much enjoy this blog anyway because I’ve learned plenty over these many months from the videos and by reading the articles and posted comments. Now again, I’m rewarded with clever ideas that have never occurred to me before.
        Thanks again and I tip my hat with a big smile toward all of you. ( B > D }

  2. You certainly could that Richard. Having the primer intact though, would be a way to test firing pin strike in the shop (only once of course). Whatever you find easiest.

    As for the vise I believe it was an inexpensive one bought by the videographer for the “set” where these videos are shot. I will let other readers give their recommendations for the vises they prefer.

  3. Hi Ken,
    Another idea for you:
    I make dummy ammo for cycling actions with a new cartridge, pull bullet, empty powder, pop primer & remove primer. I then use Buna “N” o-ring material from McMaster Carr, slice it with a razor blade and push into primer pocket. Then assemble bullet with green loctite and lightly crimp in reloading crimping die. This makes a good cycling dummy round and cushions the firing pin if/when it strikes the O-ring insert.

    For testing firing pin hits on primer, I take a new cartridge, remove bullet & powder, pop primer & remove primer. I then ream the primer pocket so that I can push in a new primer with my fingers. Then I can put the shell into the firearm chamber and fire the primer to see the impression. Make sure you point in a safe direction or you can soak new primers in oil and then install and fire eliminating the flash from the primers. I do this for all calibers and shot-shells as I need them and has worked for me for 38 years.

    • I concur with this. I typically use RTV silicone for the new “primer”, and I typically use reloading gear to remove the bullets and re-seat them, because I want to be sure of an exact finish length.
      It is amazing how many calibers are similar enough that one can pull and seat bullets for a variety of cartridges with only a few die sets (so long as you are not trying to size them). I also use the reloading gear to remove the live primer (slowly, of course) and soak all the damaged “live” primers at once.
      This dummy round technique is a great way to make up a bunch of various bullet weights / shapes to work out loading / feeding problems.
      I try to barter / beg/ collect, etc, a sample or 2 live rounds, or brass, or bullet types for odd calibers every time I visit a range or a gun show. I now have a pretty good collection of dummy components to assemble as needs arise.

  4. For shot shell dummy’s I fill the primer pocket with low temp hot glue and then shave it off flush with a razor blade. This provides a little cushion for the firing pin.

  5. Something that might help a bit with either of these is using a needle oiler to get down to the primer. If you don’t want to spend the money on one another option is a food grade syringe, I took up a habit focusing them because they aren’t sharp, are cheap and readily available on amazon and can precisely oil tight spots with minimal waist.

  6. I use plumbers putty in the vacant primer pocket. While soft and doesn’t provide any resistance to the firing pin, it does show primer strike and leaves the intent for inspection. I also drill holes in the casing, normally a single thru hole. This way there is no confusing them for loaded rounds and are visually apparent to customers who may be thinking I’m unsafe. I also make five of each caliber so if one goes flying under a bench, I only have to gather them up occasionally, it also helps to have several in the magazine when testing failure to feed, extract, and eject.

  7. I use spent brass and reload the particular bullet I need. Then I drill holes through the case, smooth and then rub it through the FLS die. This works great for practice rounds to fill in weight in a mag or practice speed loaders. Another good use is to set the seating die when reloading. I have a Folger’s Instant coffee jar full of the various rounds and calibers.

  8. I have a local reloader that uses spent brass from a few of the local firing ranges and he makes up about half dozen of each caliber that he uses and sets up for his friends no money in it just a phone call every so often.

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